Let’s face it, for almost all of us who are incapable of taking exams or completing coursework without any revision at all, there will come a time over this Christmas period where all seems lost and the stress will make you want to tear your hair out.
Fortunately, there is a sure way of preventing or at least alleviating that stress before it happens. A formula which will help you relax, feel happier and retain your focus. That formula is mindfulness, a way of making you feel, think and be in the moment, whatever you’re doing.
The positive effects of this are underestimated. What people (particularly students) do not realise is that we are far too swept off our feet, occupied in every waking moment, to truly take time out for ourselves. This is what practising mindfulness aims to make you do.
Studies have found that practising mindfulness over long periods can cause the amygdala to contract; this is the area of the brain which is most susceptible to stress. Furthermore, these studies also suggest that the practise of mindfulness increases the number of active genes, supporting your body’s fight against illnesses and serious disorders. It’s not a flowery, hippy thing to be doing – it really works and should be a part of everyone’s routine.
Mindfulness comes in various forms; perhaps the most popular is meditation, however yoga and colouring books are other activities also often considered. Mindfulness meditation itself is perfectly simple; it involves sitting in a comfortable space, focussing on your breathing and the feelings within your body.
If an hour of yoga takes up too much in your schedule, setting aside 10 minutes a day for meditation can cause drastic positive changes to your mind. It can be hard to do initially, however over time you will begin to feel where it makes a difference in your life. I would recommend Headspace as the best of all apps for meditation, however it is just as easy to find meditation exercises through YouTube.
If even 10 minutes is a push, there are simpler ways to practise mindfulness. Pay closer attention to your surroundings, ditching music in earphones and the distractions of social media. Notice the little things; the taste of the food and drink you consume and how the sensations in your body feel throughout the day.
Change the seat you sit in at the library or in lectures, go somewhere new for lunch or do something differently rather than sticking to the same boring routine. Change the route you walk home for a change of scenery. Try and head out walking in the evenings if you’re procrastinating too much.
There are so many different ways to practise mindfulness, and by doing so you can put a preventative measure in place to avoid heightening your stress levels over the coming Christmas period.
Personally, I’ve always found that doing so helps me feel more confident in myself, less lonely and boosts my mood. Alongside all of these benefits, it will also do wonders for your sleep. If you can put aside a time of day to try it, you’ll never look back.